The tragic death of the first patient who received a pig heart in January 2022 cannot overlook the fact that humorist, Lewis Grizzard, received at least two pig replacements of his aortic valve that was provided by a member of the swine family.
David Bennett died on March 8, 2022, at the University of Maryland Center at the age of 57 as reported in the March 10 edition of U.S.A. Today.
Bennett had not been eligible for a human heart transplant for a variety of reasons including the limited number of available hearts, an erratic heartbeat, and a lifestyle that had not been compliant with prior medical recommendations by his physicians.
His heart transplant procedure was not without controversy which included ethical concerns from animal rights activists. In addition, he was not a model citizen because he had a checkered past.
However, he probably would have found a mutual pal in LG because while he was recuperating from his surgery, he expressed a desire that he wanted to go home to be with his dog, Lucky.
Lewis’ love of his dogs, Plato and Catfish, have been well documented in his writings. He lost Plato in one of his divorces and Catfish became immortal by the famous cartoon of welcoming LG through the Pearly Gates after his master died in 1994.
David Bennett was not as flippant as LG whose last question to his team of surgeons before he was wheeled to the operating room for his last transplant was “When Does the Last Bus Leave for Albuquerque?” This became the title of his final best seller before he died from complications on March 20, 1994.
However, David’s family, through his son, did express their appreciation for the medical care he had received and stated their hope that his “experience will eventually help others to live longer with transplanted pig organs.”
In LG’s book “They Tore Out My Heart and Stomped that Sucker Flat!” he claims the title was derived while he was working in chilly Chicago and he was listening to a country song of the same title in a bar after wife number two had left him.
His first heart murmur was allegedly detected when he was 15 years of age. The condition progressed until the age of 21 when he got a diagnosis of aortic insufficiency
In 140 pages and 9 chapters Lewis expounds on his love life with women and then quickly switch to a walkthrough of all of the examinations and surgeries that started with his third wife who accused him of shaking in their bed in 1982.
After an introduction in Chapter I of “Murmurings and Sad Love Songs” LG begins to describe his medical adventures:
1.Chapter II – “This Might Sting a Little” (first encounter with a nurse, X-rays and diagnosing Docs.)
2.Chapter III – “The Hog and I” (discussion of pigs valve uses and barbecue)
3.Chapter IV – “An Awful Attack of Sentimentality” (self-examination of his previous 35 years of life and his parents)
4.Chapter V – “Where Are You Not That I Need You Lucille?” (check into hospital after reminiscing about a night of alleged beer drinking at Lucille’s beer joint in Grantville, Georgia and night before surgery ordeal)
5.Chapter VI – “Good Men of God!” (reflection on preachers in his past and television ministers and pre-surgery discussions on his Will!)
6.Chapter VII – “Adventures in ICU!” (will omit comments to allow your reading pleasure if you can find a copy in a bookstore or on the world wide web!)
7.Chapter VIII – “Tubes!” (a candid discussion of the seven locations on the human body where a tube can be inserted without making a new hole) and
8.Chapter IX – “Heart II” (post-operative instructions from doctor on the subjects of sex, driving a car, beer drinking, and his third divorce)
Through it all Lewis Grizzard was able to ad lib in the way that permanently identified him as one of the three great American humorists of the ages with Mark Twain and Will Rogers.
I will close with his quote about his surgery:
Ever since I had a pig valve put in my heart, every afternoon about three I have this incredible urge to make love in the mud. Do you know how hard it is to find a woman with that same urge?
The subtitle of “Life Is Like a Dogsled Team, If You Are Not the Lead Dog the Scenery Never Changes!” is equally applicable.
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You can reach Jerry Summers at firstname.lastname@example.org)